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Fair educates parents, children about asthma

Date: 8/7/2015

HOLYOKE – Asthma affects hundreds of children in the city and the Holyoke Health Center and number of organizations have joined together to help educate parents and kids alike about the disease.

One effort was an awareness fair conducted at the Holyoke Health Center on Maple Street on Aug. 3. Around the room, children and their parents were visiting tables sent up by organizations, such as the YMCA of Holyoke, teaching them about various aspect of the disease.

Matthew Lustig, a project manager at the Health Center explained to them that the center was coordinating a grant to “reduce rates of preventable chronic diseases and health care costs.”  Among the concerns are asthma, obesity and tobacco use, he added.

He said that in the city’s school the incidence rate of asthma is between 25 and 35 percent, about three times the state’s average.

“It’s extremely common,” Melanie Maloney, R.N., said

The reason is due to several factors Lustig explained. Air pollution, both created locally and traveling along the Connecticut River basin from the New York City area is one cause, while old housing is another, Maloney said.

There is a lack of understanding about what triggers the disease, she added. Dust, mold, mildew, poor ventilation, the presence of mice or rats are all factors.

While some people think a child can grow out of the disease, Maloney said this isn’t true.

“Once you have asthma, you have asthma for life,” she said. Maloney added that perhaps later in life it’s easier to manage the symptoms.

Lustig said the goal of the event was to have every family visit every table and participate in activities. For the people with 100 percent participation there was a gift bag waiting for them.     

The organizers hoped 100 people would attend the two-hour event.

One of the partners at the event was the Holyoke Youth Task Force with an exhibit an activity about tobacco use. Christine Alger and Helena Middleton, of the youth commissioners, said they were hoping to reach out to parents about second hand smoke and how it could trigger asthma.

This was the first year for the event.